Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 3 - Unison and Harmony

Sing the syllables and pitches of the C major scale.
"Play" the C major scale on the student keyboards with correct fingering.
Sing "Do - Re - Mi" in two-part harmony.
Sing the melody in unison for the round "Sumer Is Icumen In."
Hear a definition for round or canon.

Personal keyboards from Lesson 1
Schematic notation of "Do-Ri-Me" in 2-part harmony below, projected as transparency
Copies of "Sumer Is Icumen In," master copy below

Start the lesson by reviewing with the students the material presented in Lesson 1. Have them sing up and down the C major scale with you several times, and make sure they know what they're singing. Review the concept of higher and lower, going "up" and "down" in music. (You may need to show them the musical notation of the scale they did in the first lesson to reinforce the notion of higher and lower and up and down in music.) Then pass out their personal keyboards, review the way to find middle C on a keyboard, review the correct fingering of the scale, then have them play the scale ascending and descending with the correct fingering while singing the music syllables as you circulate around the room to check their use of their fingers. Congratulate them when they have finished the review.

Next, have the students sing "Doe - a deer" with you. Tell them: First we will sing it in unison. What does that mean? (Everyone sings exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.) Sing it that way at least twice. Then say to the students: Now let's see whether we can sing the song with some two-part harmony. Harmony means two or more different notes sounding at the same time and making sense together. Will we all be singing the same thing? (no)

Say to the students: That's right. We will divide into two groups. One group will sing "Doe - a Deer" just the way we've sung it together each time. The other group will sing the C-major scale, going up the scale with its proper syllables, waiting to change the pitch and syllable until they hear its name called in the song.

Be sure to use the schematic "notation" as a transparency, and follow it with a pointer as the song moves along, so the students can visualize the way the two parts are moving and see clearly that the two parts are not singing the same thing. The group that has the actual "Doe - a Deer" melody actually has the easier part. The group that has to sustain their note as the song moves around them has the harder job. It would be a good idea for you to sing with that group until the students become comfortable with "holding their own" in two-part harmony. When they have sung this successfully, be sure to congratulate them, and ask: Were you singing that song in unison? (no) What does unison mean? (Everyone sings exactly the same music or notes at exactly the same time.) What were you singing? (in two parts, two-part harmony)

Pass out copies of "Sumer Is Icumen In." Tell the students that this song looks as though it should be sung in unison, but actually it is designed as a round or canon. This means that everyone sings exactly the same music but not at the same time. This is another way to make harmony. What did we say harmony was? (2 or more different notes sounding at the same time and making sense together) Say to them: Today you'll learn the melody and words together, and learn to sing it in unison. What does unison mean? (Everyone sings exactly the same music at exactly the same time.) Next time, we'll divide into groups, and you'll hear how you can make harmony with a round or canon.

Tell the students that this song may be the oldest round that was ever written down in English as music. Say to them: This round appeared in England (have someone show England on map) about 700 years ago. You'll hear how different the language was that they used in those days from the way we speak English today. Before dealing with the meanings of the words, have the students find all the rhymes (cuckoo, anew; seed, mead; raiseth, grazeth; cow, now) and write them in a paired list on the board. Remind them that, in English, words do not have to be spelled the same way in order to rhyme.

Next, go through the text, line by line, having the students repeat it after you. Ask for volunteers for each line to give the meaning in the kind of English we use today, without worrying about rhyming words. There will be words you will have to explain to them, such as mead (meadow), wood (woods), bullock (young bull), buck (he-goat). Once they have those vocabulary words, they should be able to "translate" each line into modern English, such as:

1. You can tell that summer is coming, because you can hear the cuckoo bird singing a loud song.
2. Seeds are growing, the meadow grass is blowing, and the woods are coming into leaf.
3. The mother lamb calls after her little lamb; the calf gives a loud call to the mother cow.
4. Young bulls are growing; the he-goat is grazing.
5. The cuckoo sings a merry song.
6. You sing so well, cuckoo bird; now that you've started, don't stop singing to us.

When they have a good understanding of the meaning of the song, teach them the tune with the words. Again, go line by line, having them sing back to you what you have sung to them. If they have trouble getting their tongues around words that are a bit strange to them, sing each line on la until they know the tune before adding the words again. Sing it in unison several times together, and promise them that in a future lesson they will sing it as a real round so they can hear what nice harmonies they can make with the song.

Fifth Grade - Music - Lesson 4 - Gamelan and Reggae
Note to Teacher: This lesson is meant to supplement Geography Lesson 5 (The Spice Islands) and Lesson 7 (The West Indies). The students should have finished those lessons before listening to the music. The music lesson will review the geographical locations they have found in their geography lessons. The students were introduced to the gamelan orchestra in Second Grade (Music Lesson 12).

Listen to traditional gamelan music of Spice Islands.
Listen to reggae music originating in Caribbean island of Jamaica.
Contrast two very different kinds of music.

Classroom-size world map or globe
Recording of music of traditional gamelan orchestra, see Suggested Recording below
Recording of Jamaican reggae music, especially that of Bob Marley; see Suggested Recording

Suggested Books Showing Gamelan
The following books have at least one picture or drawing of a typical gamelan orchestra or some of the percussion instruments that are part of the traditional gamelan orchestra. Fifth-graders can easily browse and read any of these books independently.

Ardley, Neil. Music. Eyewitness Books. New York: Knopf, 1989.
Barber, Nicola and Mary Mure. The World of Music. Parsippany, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1995.
Danes, Emma. The Usborne First Book of Music. London: Usborne, 1993.
Doney, Meryl. Musical Instruments. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995.
Sharma, Elizabeth. Percussion. New York: Thomson Learning, 1993.

Additional Reference Books

Student Titles

Macdonald, Fiona and Gerald Wood. Exploring the World. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1996.

Wonderfully complete and well illustrated account of voyages of Magellan (finished by del Cano) and Drake, including the everpresent rivalries between Spain and Portugal, then between Spain and England in the rush for spices, jewels, and precious metals. Good follow-up for this month's geography lessons.

Siegen-Smith, Nikki, compiled by. Songs For Survival: Songs and Chants From Tribal Peoples Around the World. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 1995.

Although no music is recorded here, the texts for chants and songs of indigenous peoples all over the world are included. Especially numerous are those from the Americas and Africa, with a few from Southeast Asia and Australian Aborigines. Striking illustrations (by Bernard Lodge) and layout make the book particularly accessible for independent readers.

Suggested Recordings

Gamelan Sangburni: Smoking Cloves CD IN 5728. There are now quite a few choices of recordings of gamelan orchestras, but they are not all of traditional music. According the liner notes on this recording, "The village where this album was recorded in August 1994 is a rice farming village. The members of the gamelan (orchestra) all live in the village. They perform as part of their duties as members of the community."

Bob Marley song, "Rasta Man Chant," available in several recordings; for example,The Wailers Cassette, Burnin' Tuff Gong 422-846 200-4.

Background on Bob Marley for the Teacher

Bob Marley was born in 1945 to a Jamaican woman and a white quartermaster, Captain Norval Marley. Bob Marley grew up with his mother and his grandparents and rarely saw his father. Marley had a wonderful talent for music from an early age, and in the reggae music he sang and wrote the words for, you can hear the remnants of African drumming plus Marley's own strong feelings about peace and justice. Marley and his musicians became well known in Europe and in the United States in the 1970s. In his own country of Jamaica, Marley made a great effort to unite the warring political factions and end the ghetto wars that were going on, by giving a huge free concert in the capital city of Kingston in which the leaders of the two main parties would shake hands. Both Marley and his wife Rita were injured in the tumultuous weeks that preceded the concert, but he courageously went on with his plans, and the concert did take place. In the midst of a concert tour in the United States, Bob Marley was hospitalized and died of cancer when he was only 36 years old.


Begin the lesson by telling the students that the two kinds of music they will hear today come from two widely separated areas they have learned about this month in geography-- the East Indies and the West Indies.

Say to the students: The first kind of music is found in that part of the East Indies that Europeans called the Spice Islands. Have someone come to the map or globe and locate that part of southeast Asia. Ask the students: Who can tell us why the Spice Islands were so important to the Portuguese and why the crops from the Spice Islands could not be grown in Europe? (needed cinnamon, cloves, ginger to preserve and flavor food; equatorial climate necessary for growing those crops)

Next, tell them: The two islands where this particular music is traditionally played outdoors by members of the village are called Bali and Java. (Have a student point them out on the map.) They are north of what very large island that is a continent? (Australia)

If you have one of the books that has pictures of a gamelan orchestra, show them to the class and tell them this is called a gamelan (GAM uh lon) orchestra. Ask them:

How many families of instruments do we expect to see in a symphony orchestra? (4)

What are they? (strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion)

How many families of instruments do you see pictured in this gamelan orchestra? (1)

Which one is it? (percussion)

What do all percussion instruments have in common? (They make their characteristic sound by being struck--with sticks, mallets, hands, or by hitting one part of the instrument with another. This is review from Second Grade music.) Show the students as many of the instruments in the gamelan orchestra as you can find. Many of them look like different-sized xylophones; there is at least one enormous gong to be struck with a mallet; there are collections of bronze pots of varying sizes arranged on a kind of table. All of these are percussion instruments with varying pitches. Play about 5 minutes of gamelan music for the students so they have a sense of its characteristic sound. (Its rhythm seems nearly imperceptible to our ears, since we are used to accented rhythms that come in regularly measured patterns.)

Point out to the students that there are big differences between a gamelan orchestra and an orchestra in Europe or the United States. Ask: Where would we expect to hear a symphony orchestra concert in the United States? (concert hall) Tell the students that gamelan orchestras play outdoors, the players are seated on the ground behind their instruments, and there is no conductor in a gamelan orchestra. Ask: What allows gamelan orchestras to be played outdoors? (Bali and Java are close to the equator. Have a student point out the proximity to the equator on the world map.) Tell the students that the members of a gamelan orchestra do not use music when they play. They learn how to play their instruments from older players, and this music has been passed along from generation to generation for many, many years. Gamelan players are not professional musicians who are paid a salary for making music; traditionally, they are members of a village that supports itself by farming rice and other very basic foodstuffs.

Next, have someone find the West Indies on the map or globe and ask: Why are these islands called the West Indies? (found while explorers were trying to reach the East Indies)Tell the students that the next music they will hear originated on the island of Jamaica. Have someone point out Jamaica on the map or globe. Ask: Would you expect the climate of Jamaica to have anything in common with that of Java and Bali? (yes) Why? (proximity to the equator)

Play "Rasta Man Chant" for the students (or any other reggae tune of Marley and the Wailers whose text is suitable for the students). Ask whether anyone knows what we call this kind of music (reggae). Ask the students: Does anyone know who the most famous composer and performer of reggae music is? (Bob Marley) Tell them that reggae music started in Jamaica about 30 years ago among people who called themselves Rastafarians (you may want to write the words reggae and Rastafarians on the board). One of the important beliefs of Rastafarians is that the black people of Jamaica need to return to their homeland of Africa.

Tell the students something about Marley's life, then say: The name of the song you just heard is "Rasta Man Chant." You can hear that it begins with call and response or question and answer, followed by a chant. Play the piece again followed by a few minutes of gamelan music and ask the students: If we want to talk about both pieces of music, the ancient gamelan from the East Indies and the modern reggae from the West Indies, do you think we should compare or contrast them? (contrast) Why? (more differences than similarities) Congratulate the students on that observation. Then go to the board and ask the students to help you contrast the two.

In fact, there is only one obvious similarity between the two, which you might point out to the students, and that is that in both pieces the use of percussion is prominent. (In gamelan, it is only percussion; in reggae, it is largely percussion that we hear among the instruments.) Ask the students some questions about the reggae piece that will guide them to see the contrasts with the gamelan piece. For example:

What is the most obvious difference between the two kinds of music that you hear? (The reggae piece has voices and words. The gamelan has only instruments.)

What do you hear at the very beginning of this reggae piece? (drums of different kinds)

Are they hit with sticks or with hands? (with hands)

How can you tell? (by listening, sound not as sharp as with sticks, has more vibration)

What happens after the drums? (questions and answers, then the chant, several times)

Did anyone catch the words? (most importantly, "Do you hear the words of the Rasta man?")

What other instruments do you hear? (some kind of flute, a keyboard synthesizer, and more percussion--perhaps bass guitar)

What other words could you hear? (Marley sings, "I say 'Fly away home.'" Later, "One bright morning when my work is over, I'll fly away home.")

What could you guess he means by "home"? (Africa)

How would you contrast the rhythm in the reggae piece with the gamelan piece? (Accept any answers. Reggae is characterized by a regular 4-beat measure with strong accents on 2 & 4 instead of the more usual 1 and 3, but the students may or may not notice that. They will undoubtedly hear that the reggae music is strongly rhythmic and makes us want to dance. The gamelan music doesn't suggest movement to our ears, although in fact in its own culture dancing was a ritual part of the music. The students may know from learning about the origins of jazz (in the First Grade, February and March) and about the West African tradition of talking drums (in Second Grade, Lesson 12), that the traditions of call and response, as well as the tradition of talking drums and polyrhythms, were brought to the Americas with the slaves from West Africa. You may want to review some of these ideas with them.)

Finally, tell the students that you will play the reggae tune for them once more, so they can dance to it.